Clara entered therapy after life changes, particularly the birth of her children, led to a return of earlier mental health difficulties, and a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder

Length of therapeutic relationship: ongoing, over two years

When I started therapy I was experiencing periods of deep depression, anger, extreme irritability, and felt unable to cope. Life felt out of control and my relationship with my husband had drastically deteriorated. I had started self-harming, and was doing so several times a week. Though life had been relatively stable for a while, the enormous change of the birth of my first child triggered a return to the mood changes and turbulent relationships I had experienced for most of my teenage and adult life. I entered weekly short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for four months, and for the last two years have been in twice-weekly open ended psychoanalytic psychotherapy, which I expect to last for at least another two years.

I quickly became attached to my first psychotherapist, and spent the first eight months with my second, mourning the loss of the first. Therapy became the vehicle through and in which I allowed myself to experience grief for the first time; and now I am finally starting to talk about the loss of family members I experienced as a child, but never dealt with. My self-harming has greatly reduced in frequency, and now tends to be my last, rather than my first resort.

I used to believe I quite liked myself - it was a shock to realise that I didn’t.

Therapy has helped me to see the ways in which I really see myself. I used to believe I quite liked myself - it was a shock to realise that I didn’t. I’ve been learning to observe my reactions and to monitor my ‘self-talk’ – harsh, judgmental and negative, as I found it to be. Through therapy I am trying to accept rather than judge my feelings, and to figure out where they have come from and what they are trying to tell me.

Find a therapist

My relationship with my therapist is also enabling me to understand how I relate to other people, particularly my husband. I’ve realised that as much as I crave acceptance, I find it hard to accept others ‘as they are’. I have unspoken and unrealistic expectations of those I love – including expectations of unwavering self-control and of mind-reading. I’ve learned that my husband has limits and is only human – and so is my therapist. Learning to let go of ‘the ideal’, has been a hard lesson to learn. Almost as hard as accepting that what I desire (for example, constant reassurance from others), may not be productive in the long-run.

Therapy is my ultimate ‘safe place’.

Therapy has become more valuable and transformative, the more I have tackled my preconceptions of what it ‘ought to be’. It’s taken me a long time to understand there is no ‘right way’ to do psychotherapy, and as a life-long perfectionist and people-pleaser, that went very much against the grain. I’m also becoming comfortable with the fact that neither I nor my therapist knows exactly where our work will take us, and by what route. More often than not, it’s been a throw-away comment or the times I’ve turned up ‘without a plan’, that have led to the most important work. I also saw an immediate change once I stopped censoring my thoughts in session, picking out what I thought were the most interesting, relevant, or ‘safest’ parts. I now try and say whatever comes to mind in the moment – and it’s been nothing short of revelatory.

Therapy is my ultimate ‘safe place’. It’s somewhere I’m accepted for who I really am, by someone who cares about me and who is genuinely interested in me and not in who they want me to be. And that acceptance gives me a priceless gift – a greater sense of freedom, and of hope.